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Where/ How Do We Think Critically

Franklin20's picture

 I was very intrigued by our last discussion on the role of Critical Thinking, as provoked by Katherine Halyes' essay, "How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine."  Overall, I agree with Hayles; I do not think that close reading is necessarily the best way of reading.  (As a side note, I really wished she had further defined the term "close reading."  Is she equating "close reading" to critical thought?  Or is close reading simply what it sounds like: reading slowly and paying close attention to all of the words?) While I think that there is a difference in the way that we read digitally and the way that we read physically, I do not believe that digital reading is necessarily a bad thing.  I think that this generation's increased research capabilities is a direct result of digital reading.  To tie this back to information, I believe that close reading, hyper reading, and machine reading all produce information.  However, I do believe that there is a different kind of information being produced.


However, if we add critical thinking to the discussion, I feel that the efficacy of hyper and machine reading becomes complicated.  On one hand, hyper and machine reading (which Hayles lumps into a category called "distance reading") places a vast quantity of resources at a readers hand thereby increasing critical thinking capabilities.  By distance reading, the reader is able to theoretically consume more information than those who close read.  Some what paradoxically, however, distance reading is something that prevents critical thinking, I believe.  Distance reading encourages readers to skim and read summaries of writing rather than read whole texts which theoretically decreases critical thinking.  In his article, "The Heresey of Paraphrase," Cleanth Brooks argues that the transcendental quality of writing comes from the drama played out within the text.  That is to say, it is the fidgeting of ideas, themes, characters, and words that gives writing is brilliance.  The quality of writing is not determined by simply a story but rather the drama that is expressed in the way that the story is narrated.  As he argues, there is a dynamic interplay between words that gives writing is transcendental quality.  Furthermore, in his article, "Reading for the Plot," Peter Brooks argues that interpretive meaning is created by the reader.  In narration, there are simply scattered events (like dots on a page).  It is up to the reader, to give these events interpretive significance from the way that the reader thematically connects these events.  Because hyper reading encourages us to skim, we miss that dynamic interplay between words, ideas, themes etc, (and therefore the potential to think critically about a text) and we are encouraged to take things as self evident instead.

Think about the tensions between the readings from our own class.  Our own critical thought on binaries of gender, for instance, has been provoked because of the ways that multiple texts contradict and interact with each other.  If we were to just read summaries of these articles, then our comparing and contrasting between texts and the way that we form connections and opinions based on the tensions between readings would probably not be as productive as they would be if we did close reading.  





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